Hurricane Sandy: animal welfare Q&A from FEMA HQ

This morning, I had a quick chat with my International Fund for Animal Welfare colleague Kelly Johnston based out of our DC Office. The last time I saw Kelly was in Louisiana and Mississippi during IFAW’s recent response to Hurricane Isaac. Now, she is at the NRCC where she is focused on animal rescue efforts on the biggest stage.

Image source: Wikipedia - cc. The Birkes on Flickr.comMB: Kelly, what is the NRCC?

KJ:  The NRCC stands for National Response Coordination Center and it’s the hub of multiple government agencies responsible for coordinating the Federal response during emergencies such as Hurricane Sandy. Personnel have been staffing NRCC since the weekend 24 hours a day to anticipate and respond to areas affected by Sandy. The NRCC is located at the FEMA headquarters here in Washington, DC, not far from IFAW’s office.

MB: Tell us about the role you are playing at the NRCC?

KJ:  I am here as a representative of NARSC, which stands for National Animal Rescue and Sheltering Coalition. I am here to share NRCC updates and needs with NARSC members. I am also updating various contacts at FEMA with information regarding the animal response in the field and what commodities NARSC has on hand/staged to deploy if needed.

MB: What’s the most important issue regarding animals impacted by Hurricane Sandy?

KJ:  In my opinion so far, it seems with the power outages and cell towers affected in NY and NJ that we are still not fully aware of how animals have been impacted three days out from the storm. It is a concern as power outages continue in NY and NJ and the human shelter populations continue to rise that people seeking shelter will have pets that need sheltering too. NARSC members are in the wings waiting for the call for assistance.

MB: What has been the most challenging part of your job at the NRCC?

KJ:  It’s all new! This is the first time that NARSC has been invited to participate at NRCC during a disaster. I took over from another NARSC colleague from the ASPCA who had to be trained on the job too and the pace is incredibly fast! It is amazing to see the massive response from both the government and the private sector represented here, Red Cross, NVOAD, Salvation Army, etc.

Personally, I am so honored to represent NARSC and to me, the fact that we were invited to be here I think speaks volumes regarding the incredible work that IFAW and other NARSC members have done to make sure animals are part of emergency planning and emergency response.

We can bring a wealth of experience providing for pets in disasters and are a valuable part of this response. 

MB: How can people find out more about the animal victims of Hurricane Sandy and how they can help?

KJ:  There is a phone number for people in NYC with emergency animal needs to call, 347-573-1561. The number is being staffed by the Animal Planning Task Force. Otherwise, people may visit the NARSC website, and visit the various websites of NARSC members like

I also think for those of us who are not in immediate Sandy recovery, that we make sure we have a disaster plan and one that includes our pets!

Sitting here at NRCC, it is clear that planning does help! 

I know when things settle down for me here at NRCC, I am going to review my own plans!


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